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Books: The 10 best

Grant's favorites from 1997

Oliver Wendell Holmes once advised his daughter, "It is a good plan to have a book with you in all places and at all times." That is wise counsel I have always tried to heed. This year at one time or another I have dragged around to sundry odd places each of the following volumes-my personal picks for the 10 best of 1997 in no particular order.

Like most men, I love food. I was thus enchanted this year by Lobscouse and Spotted Dog. This is an absolute must-have book for all die-hard fans of the Aubry-Maturin novels by Patrick O'Brian. It is a cooking companion to those stunningly accurate Napoleonic Era sea tales. More than a mere cookbook, though, it is literally a gastronomic encyclopedia of the age. And authors Anne Grossman and Lisa Thomas make the subject as tantalizing as a trifle and as filling as burgoo.

As in each of her previous books about the providential calling of women, Susan Hunt's The True Woman is intellectually stimulating, practical, and biblical. The real-life stories she tells, the historical precedents she invokes, and the spiritual integrity she evinces all bespeak a richness and depth in Mrs. Hunt's writing that sets it apart from the all-too-typical evangelical fare of superficial sentimentality. What emerges is a remarkable portrait of God's gracious and sovereign design for women.

Are you a real bibliophile like me? You've probably stumbled upon the wonderful interview program Booknotes on the C-SPAN cable channel hosted by Brian Lamb. Many of the very best parts of Mr. Lamb's interviews with various authors have been captured in a marvelous tome, Booknotes: America's Finest Authors on Reading, Writing, and the Power of Ideas.

The Sovereign Individual by James Dale Davidson and Lord William Rees-Mogg is the best business book I've read in quite some time. It is insightful, analytical, and pointed in its estimation of the future of the global market and the changes wrought by the Internet.

Though several fine books of practical theology were published this past year, my favorite was Steve Estes and Joni Tada's fantastic volume on the character of suffering in light of the sovereignty of God. Titled When God Weeps, this is a remarkable book for a world that rarely deals with the whys and wherefores of suffering.

In Her Hand in Marriage, Douglas Wilson tackles one of the stickiest aspects of family life: a father's responsibility to prepare his sons and daughters for the blessing of marriage. Of the growing number of fine books written recently about the issue of dating and courtship, this is far and away the best yet. It is filled with the great liberty and happy fidelity that characterizes Christian truth.

I have been interested in Shakespearean authorship issues for many years now and have a whole shelf of books on the subject. But by far the best of the lot is the newest volume from the brilliant journalist Joseph Sobran. Alias Shakespeare is a blockbuster of a literary whodunit.

The Homeschool Journey is a book I've been raving about ever since I got a copy. Written by homeschool mom Susan Card, with interpolations by her musician husband Michael Card, this is a wonderful volume in almost every sense.

Overburdened with debt? Dave Ramsey's practical and encouraging program outlined in The Financial Peace Planner may be just what the doctor ordered. It was for me. This is a fantastic workbook to help you move toward financial responsibility, freedom, and, well, peace.

The fourth installment of the beloved Mitford series, Out to Canaan, is the best yet. And that is saying an awful lot. Jan Karon, who writes with an uncommon grace and an easy familiarity, is a natural storyteller, able to portray the extraordinary ordinariness of life with wry humor and genuine affection, with just the right proportions of mystery and romance. This is not merely a light literary diversion as some might suppose. It is both a careful exercise in serious social criticism and a delightful refreshment for heart, mind, and soul.

If you too would like "to have a book with you in all places and at all times," these, my top picks of this past year, may be just what you're looking for.